Rabbi Saperstein Urges Middle East Peace

Today Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, signed a statement entitled “Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Peace is More Urgent Than Ever,” coordinated by the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East. Read the full statement below:

Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Peace Is More Urgent Than Ever.

             Concerned with new challenging developments in theMiddle East, as leaders of major Jewish, Christian and Muslim national religious organizations inspired by core teachings of our traditions, we affirm with urgency that Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace is more vital than ever.  We remain guided by our founding “Principles of Cooperation” in which we acknowledge how our bonds with those on different sides of the conflict sometimes lead to differing viewpoints, and we reemphasize our common agenda for peace.  We derive encouragement from benchmark principles developed by Arabs and Israelis in earlier formal and informal negotiations that provide practical parameters for a peace agreement that could be acceptable to majorities of Israelis and Palestinians.

At this time of momentous changes, the drive for Israeli-Palestinian peace must be viewed in the context of:

  • the hopes and challenges related to the Arab Spring, including concerns for the rights of minorities;
  • the aftermath of the war inIraq, including challenges to Iraqi democracy and stability;
  • the future ofAfghanistanas the U.S./NATO role winds down;
  • tensions in U.S.-Pakistan relations;
  • the deepening crisis inSyria; and
  • the dangers of confrontation overIran’s nuclear development activities.

Appreciating that we are addressing these issues in other forums, we agreed that all of these developments make efforts for Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace more, not less, urgent.  Anchored in the deep concerns of our religious traditions to respect the hopes and rights of all people to live in peace, we reaffirm our commitment to work together for active, fair and firm U.S. leadership for comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace based on U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242, 338 and 1397, including a negotiated two-state peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

We acknowledge that 2011 was a difficult and frustrating year.  While majorities of Israelis and Palestinians continue to long for peace, political problems on both sides inhibit leaders from moving forward.  The months ahead, leading up to U.S.national elections, present a special challenge.  We urge candidates not to use any rhetoric that could make prospects for peace more problematic.  As Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders, we strongly caution candidates to do no harm to chances for a two-state Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

More specifically, the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in theMiddle Eastcalls on the Administration, the Congress and candidates for office to support the following steps:

  • Address warnings to both sides to prevent violence, and undertake diplomatic efforts, in coordination with the Quartet, to help maintain a durable, effective ceasefire; all attacks on civilians must immediately end;
  • Continue to support Palestinian state-building and economic development capacity, including immediately lifting the Congressional hold on humanitarian aid;
  • Support Palestinian efforts to form a government capable of representing the West Bank and Gaza on the essential conditions that it agree to halt violence, respect all existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and negotiate a two-state peace agreement with Israel;
  • Urge Israel to halt all settlement expansion, including in East Jerusalem; and
  • Urge a resumption of negotiations for a two-state peace agreement, based on U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242, 338 and 1397, and drawing on elements from the Arab Peace Initiative (2002), the unofficial Israeli Peace Initiative (2011), and the Geneva Accord (2003) which might lead to an agreement acceptable to both sides.

We believe thatU.S.support for these steps is essential to preserving hope for negotiated Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace, and that achieving peace would have profoundly positive effects on other current conflicts and challenges in theMiddle East.  As national religious leaders, we pledge to urge members of our communities across the country to work actively in the coming months to preserve and further prepare the ground forMiddle Eastpeace, and to support positive efforts by political leaders in both parties to help move towards this goal.

List of Endorsers

Christian Leaders:

Bishop Richard E. Pates, D.D., Chairman, USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace*

His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus ofWashington*

Bishop Denis J. Madden, Auxiliary Bishop ofBaltimore*

Archbishop Vicken Aykasian, Director, Ecumenical Affairs,ArmeniaOrthodox Church inAmerica*

Fr. Mark Arey, Director, Office of Ecumenical Affairs, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese ofAmerica*

Clare J. Chapman, Esq., Interim General Secretary, National Council of Churches of ChristUSA*

Bishop Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop,EvangelicalLutheranChurchinAmerica*

Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, Episcopal Church*

Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk, Presbyterian Church (USA)*

Reverend Geoffrey Black, General Minister & President, UnitedChurchofChrist*

Reverend Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister, President,ChristianChurches(Disciples of Christ)*

Bishop Neil Irons, Executive Secretary, Council of Bishops, UnitedMethodistChurch*

Richard Stearns, President, World Vision US

Reverend Leighton Ford, President, Leighton Ford Ministries, Board Member, World Vision US*

David Neff, Editor in Chief and Vice-President, Christianity Today*

Jewish Leaders:

Rabbi David Saperstein, Director,ReligiousActionCenterof Reform Judaism*

Rabbi Peter Knobel, Past President, Central Conference of American Rabbis*

Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies, Jewish Theological Seminary*

Rabbi Shawn Zevit, Director of Congregational Services, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation*

Rabbi Amy Small, Past President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association*

Rabbi Freddi Cooper, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association*

Muslim Leaders:

Imam Mohammed Magid, President, Islamic Society ofNorth America*

Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, National Director, Islamic Society ofNorth America*

Naeem Baig, Executive Director, Islamic Circle of North America*

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Founder of the ASMA Society and theCordobaInitiative*

Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim Chaplain,GeorgetownUniversity*

Dawud Assad, President Emeritus, Council of Mosques,USA*

Eide Alawan, Interfaith Office for Outreach, Islamic Center ofAmerica*

Iftekhar A. Hai, Founding Director, United Muslims ofAmerica*


*Organizations for Identification Only


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Katharine Nasielski

About Katharine Nasielski

Katharine Burd Nasielski is the Communications Associate at the RAC and was an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant from 2011-2012. She graduated in 2011 from Northwestern University and is originally from Philadelphia, PA where she is a member of Society Hill Synagogue.

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